Sex addiction is an ever-developing therapeutic field that treats a specific range of sexual issues. But how many people are sex addicts? And what types of sex addictions can people have?
Nearly 1/4 of a million people search for information on Google about “sex addiction” monthly. Despite some who contest the validity of this term, sex addiction clearly surpasses any other self-diagnosis for which a patient might seek therapy for a variety of out-of-control sexual urges or behaviors.
When is sexual behavior addictive?
The criteria for whether or not sexual behavior is addictive include the presence of obsession, compulsion, loss of control, and continuation in spite of negative consequences. The majority of sex addict clients that come to our Los Angeles clinic seek help to control addictive behaviors mainly related to serial infidelity, prostitute solicitation and porn. We explore with them the reasons why people have an affair or pay for sex or porn… and help them return to healthy sexuality and sexual expression.
S Fellowships and the concept of sex addiction
The concept of sex addiction has only emerged in the mid-1970s when members of Alcoholics Anonymous sought to apply the principles of 12-Steps toward their own self-defined sexual recovery. These members applied the 12-Step structure to create new support groups like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (S.L.A.A.), Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA) that all seemed to independently surface spontaneously within that same era. As a whole, these are known as the “S” programs or S-fellowships because they all focus on sexual recovery.
How do professionals treat sex addiction?
In 1983, Dr. Patrick Carnes published the first known book on the subject Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction drawing on 12-Step philosophy fused with clinical psychology. This early work became the basis for the current therapeutic field of sex addiction treatment. Later in his book Don’t Call It Love (1992), Dr. Carnes would identify 10 types of sex addiction (see below). Currently, the standard treatment for sex addiction includes assessment and consultation with a licensed therapist who is a member of The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) and/or a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT). Ideally therapy for sex addiction is accompanied by participation in a peer-based recovery support group such as S-fellowship 12-Step programs.
3 levels of sex addiction
Dr. Carnes also described the three levels of sex addiction in Out of the Shadows, which correspond to varying degrees of consent.
Level One – Level One sexual behaviors include compulsive masturbation, pornography, and consensual sexual liaisons both heterosexual and homosexual.
Level Two – Level Two behaviors are illegal activities but considered as “nuisance offences,” even though they are non-consensual therefore they all involve a degree of victimization. These include flashing, voyeurism and indecent phone calls.
Level Three – Level Three behaviors are serious criminal behaviors that are dangerous and abusive, and result in serious consequences for the victims. These include child molestation, sexual abuse of vulnerable adults, and rape.
10 types of sex addiction
Following are the types of sex addiction and their characteristics.
1. Fantasy Sex - Sexually charged fantasies, relationships, and situations. Arousal depends on sexual possibility. How to stop fantasizing?
2. Seductive Role Sex - Seduction of partners. Arousal is based on conquest and diminishes rapidly after initial contact.
3. Voyeuristic Sex - Visual arousal. The use of visual stimulation to escape into obsessive trance.
4. Exhibitionistic Sex - Attracting attention to body or sexual parts of the body. Sexual arousal stems from reaction of viewer whether shock or interest.
5. Paying for Sex - Purchasing of sexual services. Arousal is connected to payment for sex, and with time the arousal actually becomes connected to the money itself.
6. Trading Sex - Selling or bartering sex for power. Arousal is based on gaining control of others by using sex as leverage.
7. Intrusive Sex - Boundary violation without discovery. Sexual arousal occurs by violating boundaries with no repercussions.
8. Anonymous Sex - High-risk sex with unknown persons. Arousal involves no seduction or cost and is immediate.
9. Pain Exchange Sex - Being humiliated or hurt as part of sexual arousal; or sadistic hurting or degrading another sexually, or both.
10. Exploitative Sex - Exploitation of the vulnerable. Arousal patterns are based on target ‘types’ of vulnerability.
Who does sex addiction affect?
Sex addiction affects all types of people from all cultural backgrounds and all economic classes because ultimately sex addiction is a coping mechanism in response to trauma or extreme stress in some area of one’s life, something that may be common to all classes and backgrounds. Both men and women can be sex addicts, although statistics guesstimate that only 8-12% of sex addicts seeking treatment are women. As you might imagine, there is a need for greater statistical information on the subject of sex addiction due to the evolving understanding and acceptance of this diagnosis. Still, for healthcare professionals to ignore the reality of the various types of sex addiction and corresponding professional treatments can do a grave injustice to any patient who struggles with this specific problem.
Questions about types of sex addiction
Please leave us your questions about sex addiction here. We will be happy to try to answer your questions personally and promptly, and/or refer you to sex addiction treatment when possible. All questions about sex addiction are welcomed.